Otago Daily Times

‘Team of 5 mil­lion’ should be more than a slo­gan

The idea was nice, but are we re­ally a team of five mil­lion? Glenn Turner pon­ders that ques­tion.

- Glenn Turner is a for­mer longserv­ing New Zealand cricket player, coach and ad­min­is­tra­tor liv­ing in Wanaka. Society · Politics

ARE we re­ally be­com­ing more civilised when it still takes a war or a pan­demic to unite us? Have we ad­vanced much when it takes a com­mon en­emy to emerge be­fore we be­come one?

And why is there such a rush to re­turn to a sta­tus quo of dis­union? How much of a shift will it take be­fore enough peo­ple gen­uinely re­gard com­mu­nity as im­por­tant enough to re­nounce greed and en­ti­tle­ment?

Peo­ple’s re­sis­tance to change, and the de­sire to re­turn as quickly as pos­si­ble to so called nor­mal once the en­emy de­parts, ap­pears to be an all too com­mon re­ac­tion. Those suc­cess­ful in us­ing the sys­tem to their ad­van­tage pre­Covid, in­stinc­tively don’t wish to sur­ren­der any of their lion’s share of money and the power gained from it. The want for more is ever present whether the need ex­ists or not.

There are some who can con­nect with the op­por­tu­nity and tim­ing for a re­set, but their bat­tle to suc­ceed will be much more dif­fi­cult. Their at­tempts to im­prove en­trenched sys­tems are likely to be thwarted by the val­ues of the rul­ing es­tab­lish­ment.

Per­haps some with ex­ces­sive amounts of loot, might take a closer look at them­selves and re­alise they are very poor, be­cause all they have is money.

Those lack­ing em­pa­thy come up with con­ve­nient one­lin­ers at­tempt­ing to den­i­grate the dis­ad­van­taged: ‘‘They get what they de­serve, they haven’t taken per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity, and they’re lazy tak­ers who don’t want to work, have too many kids and waste money on un­nec­es­sary ex­trav­a­gances.’’

It’s ex­tremely dam­ag­ing and pre­pos­ter­ous to sug­gest that many in this cat­e­gory don’t want the dig­nity of work, im­proved liv­ing stan­dards for them­selves and their fam­i­lies, or to con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety. At­ti­tudes of blame that de­monise and lock peo­ple into poverty are in­hu­mane and wrong. In the long run it comes back to bite ev­ery­one not least our rep­u­ta­tion as a civilised coun­try. To con­done this course of ac­tion is tan­ta­mount to go­ing down the path of bed­ding in a class of Dal­its (un­touch­ables).

Sug­gest­ing that equal op­por­tu­nity ex­ists and you get what you de­serve, is fur­ther abuse. There will al­ways be some who ex­ploit a sys­tem, not least the well­heeled.

Are we to be­lieve that all the ad­van­taged peo­ple are more vir­tu­ous, hard­work­ing and there­fore more de­serv­ing of their sit­u­a­tion? Luck may have been the main rea­son for their money, hav­ing been born into af­flu­ent fam­i­lies.

Luck with re­ceiv­ing in­her­i­tance money may have au­to­mat­i­cally pro­vided some with more than enough of the es­sen­tials and lux­u­ries.

This group seems to be free from the same crit­i­cisms and scru­tiny ap­plied to the dis­ad­van­taged. In­ci­den­tally, the big­gest pol­luters are the mon­eyed, there­fore con­tribut­ing more to cli­mate break­down and en­vi­ron­men­tal col­lapse.

To aban­don sound hu­man­i­tar­ian poli­cies for any group­ing of peo­ple is a dam­ag­ing re­sponse.

The free­doms of ex­pres­sion and rule of law in New Zealand may be the envy of many coun­tries, but there is much more to do.

Ir­re­spec­tive of some prej­u­dices that still ex­ist among peo­ple of dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties, New Zealand law en­deav­ours to treat peo­ple equally, ac­cept­ing their cul­tural dif­fer­ences.

We are a com­par­a­tively lib­eral so­ci­ety with the free­dom for all cit­i­zens to prac­tise their na­tive lan­guage, re­li­gion, dress and in gen­eral an ac­cep­tance of a va­ri­ety of prac­tised cus­toms. These free­doms and ac­cep­tance of dif­fer­ence, set the stage for gen­uine unity.

The main cul­prit for dis­unity is more to do with groups be­ing un­ten­ably dis­ad­van­taged and un­pro­tected from the grip of poverty. There will al­ways be a fis­cal gap be­tween peo­ple, but surely not a chasm that strips them of their dig­nity and gen­eral well­be­ing.

Is it not time to lock in our pri­or­i­ties where the new nor­mal re­flects an econ­omy serv­ing so­ci­ety not so­ci­ety serv­ing the econ­omy?

Is it not time to lock in poli­cies that au­to­mat­i­cally sup­port all cit­i­zens’ ac­cess to the es­sen­tials of food, shel­ter, med­i­cal ser­vices, ed­u­ca­tion and a live­able wage?

These poli­cies would in­evitably help ev­ery­one, not least those who need it most. It would re­ject stig­ma­tism at­tached to some peo­ple and cyn­i­cism to oth­ers by moder­at­ing al­le­ga­tions of the so called de­serv­ing and un­de­serv­ing.

Con­fronting and com­bat­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion and poverty is an eth­i­cal duty for which­ever gov­ern­ment is rul­ing. To be se­ri­ously con­sid­ered a team of 5 mil­lion, the term ‘‘our peo­ple’’ must in­clude all of us.

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